Latest post:

June 28th, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

'Abused'… by one's anticipations

   People consider themselves 'abused' by the judicial system, when a ruling goes against their anticipations.

   People consider themselves 'abused' at work (in a job they willingly bound themselves to, for some benefit they hoped to get in compensation for their work), when a lack of promotion goes against their anticipations.

   People consider themselves 'abused' when someone emotionally 'betrays' them, i.e. when the outcome of a risk they consciously took goes against their anticipations (anticipations that the negative outcome would not materialise, that the risk was just 'theoretical', that they'd been careful enough to alleviate the danger…).

   People consider themselves 'abused' when anyone openly disagrees with them and refuses to back down to the tasteless, pointless, often-ignorant "let's agree to disagree"  false peace ('false' because not leading to constructive engagement later but only to mutually ignoring each other, to refusing assistance —"told you so”,—  to rejoicing at confirmations and to rejecting healthy doubts about the limitations of one's views).

   People consider themselves 'abused' when they have voluntarily embarked in some act they later regret (usually because the anticipated outcome turned illusory, and they regret the investment / cost…), act then described as "I did it, but I wasn't comfortable with it."

   Many abused themselves, rather than were abused by others… but blaming others (with the projection "they knew better")  is the easy narrative and cop-out.

   'Abuse' became a keyword to easily identify as a 'victim', and to try to manipulate the world into giving what one craves for, regardless of the initial dissatisfaction! "Second time lucky?"

   It's a powerful word, but it's used too often in the rich countries for it to be true as often as it is used. Even the worst predators consider themselves 'vilified' and even 'abused' when (against their anticipation that they would never be caught) the abused crowd protests!

   The arms-race “I was abused more than you were”  doesn’t lead anywhere other than to caricatural responses. It's about as productive as "I love you more than you love me."

   It is often argued that crimes are under-reported, but people now bias the very notion of 'crime' (or of 'abuse') to the point that, soon, they'll consider that a delay in being promoted at work is as bad, as worthy of outrage, as worthy of political pressures and petitions, as armed conflicts around basic resources like clean water!
   This is clearly self-serving, not to say self-obsessed… this is also the continuation of saṃsāra, of experiencing life with a craving mind, with a dissatisfied mind!

   One of the necessary steps toward Liberation is to stop seeing  'challenges' as 'abuse', to call a spade a spade, and to take ownership for one's mistakes or simply for one's frustrations (of one's anticipations)!

   For the avoidance of doubt, this does not  mean calling actual 'abuse' a mere 'challenge': abandoning a self-serving view —used to coerce the world into accepting how one thinks life 'should' be— doesn't mean falling into the opposite extreme that "all views are equally legitimate", "it's all the same", "it's all empty",  or "all is ultimately selfless, there's no suffering, there's no sufferer"!
   Discernment is a root-cause of both ignorance and wisdom.
   Discerning challenges and then misusing the term 'abuse' to describe them is ignorance. Discerning, and labelling as such, true 'abuse' is wisdom… at least if one also discerns when the abuse has stopped!
   When someone is challenged, it isn't necessarily because of discrimination and biases from others… nor is it automatically 'abuse' if it's harsh (when you grab someone who is about to get run over, it might feel 'harsh' but it's not abuse, it's saving a life!). However, when someone is abused, no amount of "it's just a bit of fun; have a sense of humour!"  or of "it's how it's always been"  cop-outs will change the abusive nature of the act.

   Ignorant parents don't 'abuse' their kids when they do their best and don't know any better… That the children might still develop a trauma doesn't automatically justify blaming the parents for their ignorance: the parents are victims of their ignorance! They deserve compassion just like the children do. This is different from parents abusing their kids although they definitely know better but prioritise their own selfish desires over the kids' needs ('needs', not 'wishes' later fantasised as 'needs' for one's convenient self-serving narrative of victimhood).
   Most children will consider the parents negatively at some teenage point… Breaking news: no parent is ideal, parents are not buddhas, not God, not Father Christmas!
   Wishing parents had not been so ignorant is pointless wishful-thinking. What do you do now? Who are you now? Do you limit yourself by a narrative of your childhood? "I'm the way I am because my mother dropped me… and she dropped me because she was neurotic because her mother dropped her… and way back to Adam and Eve, or to a disappearing monkey or something!" (It Starts Now - Alan Watts)

   "Right speech" requires to be mindful of how one labels phenomena (in one's head as well as out of one's mouth!), never stretching words "for the benefit of the cause", to give 'weight' to one's argument!
   Frustration will occur even when promoting wholesome causes, but stretching words proves unproductive once the word 'abuse' is used in relation to every single cause: even good causes might require priorities! When all causes share a label, the label becomes an obscuration of differences, although the subtleties might be relevant to the wise use of available resources! Improving the world requires discernment and commitment, but it also demands restraint in the use of dramatic and negative labels: this is about what we do,  not about the labels we put on what has been.

Photo via Relationship with this post? It is regularly considered that enrolment into a religion (at least when a child is really young) is a form of abuse… and such was the feedback given to the photographer / father of the young 'monk'. Except this child is not a monk, this is just a fun photo shoot! Is this still abusive (because it promotes one particular religion)? Is the judgement, on how 'abusive' this is, dependent on how it turns out for this child later? If one is recognised as a tulku (identified 'reincarnation' of a bodhisattva in Tibetan Buddhism), is it 'abuse'? Does it depend on which tulku one is identified with? Is it more or less 'abusive' whether you later turn out to become the Dalai-Lama or an obscure, largely-unknown tulku imprisoned by the Chinese?